Violet & Daisy (2011)

2015 #34
Geoffrey Fletcher | 84 mins | streaming (HD) | 2.35:1 | USA / English | 15 / R

Violet and DaisyAfter winning the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for Precious, Geoffrey Fletcher wrote and directed this zany hit-women movie. Or possibly he wrote it “in 1996, when everybody and their brother and their sister and their cousin twice-removed was trying to be Quentin Tarantino,” as Matt Zoller Seitz put it in his review for RogerEbert.com.

Indeed, the end result — which concerns two girl-ish assassins, played by Alexis Bledel and Saoirse Ronan, in a chaptered narrative that’s mainly about their confrontation with a mark, played by James Gandolfini, who actually wants them to kill him — plays like Tarantino with a metric tonne of Quirk slathered over it. On the bright side, it’s sort of entertaining, albeit fundamentally derivative with a sheen of left-field try-hard wacky-uniqueness.

There are good performances from Gandolfini (in particular) and Ronan, who manage to pull some genuine empathy out of the oddness. Unfortunately, this aspect of character drama comes too late — the early part of the film trains us to expect a stylised genre movie, then suddenly shifts into a meditation on loneliness and death. It doesn’t work because it doesn’t gel. I’m all for tonal dissonance, but it needs to be handled correctly. Sleepy cellHere, Fletcher either needs to settle on one or the other, or clearly signal his intentions earlier.

Violet & Daisy is a bit of a mess, but one that at least offers a worthwhile performance or two and some entertaining, inventive, if derivative, moments. The sheer scale of its self-conscious kookiness will just grate for some viewers, though.

3 out of 5

Killing Them Softly (2012)

2015 #57
Andrew Dominik | 93 mins | TV | 2.35:1 | USA / English | 18 / R

Killing Them SoftlyAs presidential nominee Barack Obama talks about the American Dream, in a run-down corner of the nation a trio of small-timers plot a robbery, landing them in hot water with some nasty people.

Writer-director Dominik uses news audio about the financial crisis to comment on the plot, an inclusion somewhere between neat dramatic irony and heavy-handed affectation. He gets better mileage from the mundane mechanics and economics of organised crime, but it’s small consolation among flabby storytelling: pointless subplots; flashy camerawork that contains little weight or meaning (ironically); even well written and performed scenes eventually drag, outstaying their welcome.

Disappointing.

2 out of 5

Killing Them Softly is on Film4 tonight at 10:55pm.

Romance & Cigarettes (2005)

2007 #13
John Turturro | 102 mins DVD | 15 / R

Romance and CigarettesI was attracted to this because it was billed as a modern musical, with an impressive cast. Tsk.

Some people are put off by the musical tag — well, don’t be. The characters occasionally sing along to some popular songs (and sometimes to ones you’ve never heard in your life), and sometimes do fun dance routines. This sits at odds with the gritty-ish melodrama of the plot, but that’s the fun.

It’s worth a punt, but expect to dislike it.

3 out of 5